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This Choice

Working at Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School allows me the opportunity to be tied to NC State University in ways that I continue to discover. This evening as I scroll through the Twitter feed, I find a tweet from the School of Education where a student proclaims in a video #WhyIChoseEducation. I am encouraged by the enthusiasm and passion. It is this passion that drives us in education.

All day today I moved between conversations with students. I have students that I greet in the morning and check in on for a number of reasons. There might be family stories that I need to hear. I have students that share book titles with me. I have students that I know just need that hello and acknowledgement that I am glad they came to school today. Some of my student leaders connect about some issue of importance. But often in the role of administration, I am discussing issues of discipline with students. And even in these crucial moments, I find these engaging. I am grateful to have the opportunity to take the time to listen and help walk through what happened. Students need the opportunity to have voice and to also begin to see their actions as part of a larger story. It is hard when our kids make the mistakes they do. But I find hope when I can support our students in discovering alternative actions. I am encouraged when they begin to reflect on ways to make it right. And when we find each other in the hallways again, it is my expectation that we continue to hold each other with respect in continuing to grow in learning.

When I think of the statement, #WhyIChoseEducation, most certainly the main reason is in the form of these students that walk into my building every day. Our students come with the best they have to offer. Some days their best is rough. And some days their best humble me with greatness. Students are on a journey. And I am grateful to be a part of their growth. Being a part of the work at Centennial Campus is an honor. We continue to grow. We make mistakes. We reflect. And we hope to make it better tomorrow.

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Time Well Spent

A good middle school principal friend of mine once said that middle school is fast and furious. Before you know it, it is over because after taking six years of time in elementary school three years feels just too quick. And as I look at the calendar and see the end of October standing before me, I believe it.

I notice that my days also fly by. Having an early start school, we have to get our rhythm going early or else the bells ring and our day is over. I also wonder if it is the nature of the day having the movement from class to class that offers moments to be checked off. Students offer great insight on their days. They talk openly with me about what they enjoy about schedules and what they don’t. Students can see classes pass along and perhaps either see a sense of accomplishment of completion or build a sense of worry of the next class ahead. In typical middle school student form, they talk about liking to come to school to be with friends and to see some teachers and not liking the rest. They have strong opinions of certain subjects. They like different classes for different reasons. At my last student leadership breakfast there was even a debate about adding minutes to the day just to offer more downtime to just hang out with friends. As much as our students may be happy for the weekends and the end of the day, they tend to linger and talk. They don’t mind the conversations with their teachers. And they are always there in the mornings before the bell ready to come in to start the day before we even have begun.

I like hearing our students talk about the importance of relationships when they talk about time at school. Every conversation I have with students they remind me of what is important to this age of student. When they talk about their classroom experiences, they talk about opportunities to collaborate. They talk about the stories their teachers share. They talk about connecting. When I sit with students in the cafeteria, they ask questions and want to know more and want to continue to build relationship.

Time is moving quickly this year. And I continue to be surprised at the pace of the days and weeks that fly. As I pause to write tonight about time, I consider what our students also tell me about time and that it is important to take that flying time to build relationships and be sure to be connecting. Use that time wisely because it will be quick.

And it is my hope that these connections we build as a school community will help us in our learning. Perhaps our learning can be deeper because it comes through that connection. And that will be time well spent.

 

Taking Pause to be Present

I have taken some time away from this blog with purpose and reflection. During the month of June, I wrapped up my work at Joyner Elementary. To leave five years of life work is a challenge and one that emotions don’t link with words well. I am honored that I have become a part of the 65+ years of learning and teaching story of the school. I am grateful for the many fingerprints that have been left on my heart by an amazing group of passionate educators and students that worked towards honoring each other with respect and building a community that went beyond the four walls. The community of Joyner will be a part of me.

As I took pause from all things with electronic footprints, I found it important in the transition to Centennial Campus Magnet Middle to be present. I wanted to give all energy and attention to those I began to meet over the summer. I wanted to listen and be mindful of the many stories I was beginning to be shared in. Learning my new school’s story has been something that takes time and attention. I entered this space with little time before we jumped into actual school days. Meeting my students and beginning to hear their stories has also been a part of this journey in being present.

It has been strange to not automatically go to Twitter to share a shining moment of our work at Centennial. I have missed the weekly time to pause, write and share reflections of this work that I do. But I also am glad to clear away from the tech noise in order to learn in the space I have gladly joined. I needed the relationships that were beginning to be built to stay in an authentic place.

I am building a story of teachers that truly have a desire to support middle school learners in their growth academically, socially and emotionally. I am impressed to work with the teams of teachers eager to learn together. Every time we have the opportunity in workdays, staff meetings or early release days, the professional learning and collaboration is electric. One afternoon as we stood outside ending a staff meeting of learning, I recognized the length of the meeting and honored that intensity of the teachers to continue to be willing to learn and share.

I also see students who are ready to lean into connecting. I have laughed at the honest questions that have been thrown at me. I have had several meetings with students who have requested time to talk about ways we can continue to build our school community. I notice parents that have a strong desire to see their children succeed during this challenging time in life.

I am grateful for the band of volunteers in our PTA that want to encourage our teachers and do amazing things for our students.

I am committed to building on this program that we have on NC State’s Centennial Campus. We are building university connections that allow our students to see the possibilities that sit in their future and be a part of an innovative community seeking greater opportunities in the present. I also look forward to nurturing our leaders and understanding this stage in life when their leadership skills begin to step out into a more independent light.

We have work to do at Centennial Campus as we do in all of our schools. And I look forward to my opportunity to serve in this new leadership role. I am hopping back into the technology world slowly as being present is still a part of this growing work. But I look forward to stopping by my blog and clicking into Twitter to share the work we are doing.

 

Counting?

Many people have asked me lately what is the number of days left for school. These people may be casual acquaintances that know I work in a school to our parents that walk in each morning. They are surprised when I often cannot offer the number of days left. My response is usually that I am too focused on what we have to get done today to look ahead too far.

When I reflect on this reason why I haven’t begun to count down, I know that each day is precious. Each day is an opportunity to finish a lesson, push to the next level, make that connection that is almost there, help make solid a new concept and so much more. Each day is our opportunity to have our children come together in this community and grow. Each day is an opportunity to reach another concept of learning. Each day is an opportunity.

I cannot start wishing these days away. We have the hurdle of completing our assessments. These end of year opportunities give us data to see how our efforts in targeted instruction are working for our students. The assessments are some of the measures we use. We also have the hurdle of taking advantage of the many moments still left.

We do not ignore the fact that some sport seasons have ended for the summer. Tournament weekends close the season. Dance recitals are on us. Swimming pools are opening. We know that the fireflies are starting to keep us outside later in the evening. The thoughts of long summer days without school are in the future (for those of us in traditional calendars). I know there is a buzz of all things to come.

But right now, I want to keep school going. We have too much time that we cannot lose. We have precious weeks left and I look forward to seeing all the learning that can come. Teachers have so much sitting on their plates in these last weeks. But I also see teachers truly reaping the rewards of hard work.

This morning I was in second grade classrooms while they were broken into small groups exploring their scientific wonderings about the critters in their classrooms they were observing. These rich conversations and shared learning comes from this whole year of building collaboration skills. Kindergarten students explore ideas with each other and understand the expectations of school now. They offer ideas and give each other support. They are learning to listen to each other and ask questions. Our fifth graders navigate their own curious work with such assurance and confidence. This is that time that we see the growth and enjoy the bonds that classrooms have made after a year together as a class community.

I am not going to begin counting the days yet. I will leave that for maybe the last week. Until then, let’s keep enjoying the learning and time we have together as a Joyner school family this 2016-2017 school year.

Growing

This morning was our Kindergarten Orientation. Many families walked into Joyner this morning, some for the first time. Eager faces. Nervous faces. Confident faces. Worried faces. I noticed tight holds on parents hands. I enjoyed the cell phones at the ready for pictures. And saw the fun of seeing perhaps a familiar face in the crowd.

As I prepared to move to the gym to begin the orientation, I ran into a fifth grader as he made his way back from breakfast. He asked me about what was happening. I shared with him that it was orientation. He began to smile with remembering the songs he sung five years ago to welcome new Kinders to Joyner. We had a moment of disbelief that we are preparing to say goodbye as he moves to middle school. As we parted for the day, we agreed that we would just enjoy this last month together and have fun thinking of all the memories made here.

What a great conversation to hold on to as I walked in front of our newest Joyner family members. I could speak confidently of the amazing place that Joyner is. I carried the fifth grader’s love of this space and his love for the many memories as I looked out to everyone sitting and knowing memories were about to be built.

Joyner is a special place. Having six years to watch and help children grow is a gift that elementary school gets to experience. We see these small little faces grow. We build relationships with families. What seems so overwhelming and unknown becomes so familiar it is like home.

Welcome to our newest Joyner family members. And I also am starting to prepare myself for the sweetly bitter moment of saying goodbye to our fifth graders.

Good thing we still have a month!

Celebrating our PYP Students

Tomorrow is Exhibition Day for our fifth graders at Joyner. This is a culmination of the work that happens for students in the IB Primary Years Programme. Our students truly begin to see how they take in information and consider how it connects and what then, they can do with it. Tomorrow our students will be showcasing some of learning they have experienced.

Students have read common text that provided them experiences to consider issues that are important to them. Fifth graders discussed the power of arts. They wondered what life would be without arts around them. They considered having a day without arts to showcase how much our world and Joyner is infused with art. Other students have looked into the issue of poverty. They have learned about global issues but also local poverty. I visited a fifth grade classroom the other day where students were practicing their presentations they plan to make tomorrow. Both Ms. Lewis and Mr. Del were encouraging their public speaking skills. Students provided critiques and insight on how to make the presentation more moving. The conversations about how they want to act in moving forward after learning about the issues were creative.

The amount of work that our fifth graders do in accomplishing this “final” task of the K-5 IB experience is incredible. But it is important to be said that this really is work done not just in fifth grade but has been built throughout the years at Joyner.

Our students often are those that seek solutions. Many are eager to provide support to others. Even our first grade students build capacity of giving through their visits to our aging neighbors at Mayview. Our first graders learn to read with these neighbors, interview them and just connect.

It is important work as an IB learner to see that the knowledge we gain is something that we can use to move forward into our world. I enjoy meeting Joyner alum who share the passions they are discovering in work and school. It amazes me when these students seek Joyner to complete service projects or research projects. It feels fulfilling to know that the relationships and learning that happens while at Joyner has left an imprint on students to the point that they want to come back to it.

I wish our fifth graders well tomorrow. I am thrilled with the process they have spent in this Exhibition work. And look forward to celebrating them.

Celebration of Arts on Thursday

Thursday evening will be our Spring Concert under the overhang. I love this celebration of the arts as our second grade students will begin the evening with songs and smiles. Mr. Fotta has helped the students create their props. And Ms. Moore will surely have found some great songs to share. Our third graders then showcase their hard work with the recorders. There is an incredible pride for the students who have added a rainbow of colored belts on their recorders. I always enjoy seeing the smiles of parents as they finally hear the end of this commitment the students have given to this instrument. And we will end our evening with our Gold Choir. This group of fourth and fifth graders come early mornings to practice with Ms. Moore. Their voices have grown with harmony.

I look forward to this event as we sit in the midst of amazing artwork around us under the overhang. I am so grateful to our teachers who give so much extra to create these moments to celebrate art as they do.

I look forward to enjoying this celebration and watching our children shine. See you at 6:30.